Monday, October 01, 2012


Ed's Getting There....I Think

It's two years now since Ed Miliband won the Labour leadership in competition with his brother and he has had to survive a fairly horrific drubbing from the right-wing press not to mention doubts from within, including, it has to be said, my own. I thought David lacking in political courage- he should have used his power to bring down the disastrous Brown-so I opted for Ed in the vote. But his mawkish early efforts to communicate made me doubt my judgement I have to confess. So now we see him with his third conference as leader. According to yesterday's papers he thinks the expected personal attacks on him from the Tories, as 'weird,weak, callow and much too red' is a 'sure sign I'm succeeding'. Is the government rattled by him? Hmmmm.

It's true Ed is now better placed than previous years in that: the party is (still) relatively united; he has a ten point lead in the polls; and has had a few notable 'wins' over leading the attack on Murdoch over phone hacking and establishing an influential distinction between 'predator and producer'(responsible and irresponsible) forms of capitalism. His failure to 'break through' in way Blair and Cameron managed tends to encourage comparisons with failed Tory leaders like Hague and IDS, both of whom were replaced after losing elections rather badly. Are we witnessing the early stages of a Labour IDS? This is the question party members almost dare not ask.

Some suggest- mostly the right-wing columns- that his relations with colleagues could be better. It's true that his shadow chancellor, Ed Balls is still loathed by many as a thuggish clone of Gordon Brown-the Lib Dems suggest he would have to go in a Lib-Lab coalition- but he dismisses this as rubbish, pointing out that they have worked happily together for the past two decades. It might be significant however that it is Miliband who is leading on the possible statutory separation of retail and investment banking as recommended by the Vickers Report.

But does he appear as credible prime minister in waiting? Well, the polls say not, by 63 to 28%, a major headache for him and his aides. He is also
perceived less able than Cameron to take 'tough decisions'- a crucial requirement in popular attitudes towards a potential prime minister. But he is seen as more in touch than Cameron with 'ordinary people' and in 'caring for every sector of of society'. Most important of all, his Yougov approval rating since January has improved by 31 points while Cameron's has declined by 25. Ed seems to be slowly winning the battle for acceptance and approval but much still remains to be done before he can realistically think about adding the keys to Number Ten to his keyring. Yesterday on Andrew Marr, Mathew Parris admired Ed's calm serious dignity. Today Jackie Ashley suggests we accept that this man is a serious 'north London intellectual' who is genuinely interested in ideas rather than a grandstanding PR obsessed celebrity politician. I tend to agree.

Not credible PM material. Surveys still show that, regardless of political preference, people think Cameron WILL win next time. This measurement is usually the best in guaging whether a leader is credible. My guess is that Cameron will have to win this election in the teeth of a continuing and worsening economic climate. But by electing Miliband, the Labour Party took a decision for themselves rather than the country...the electorate rarely reward parties for such behaviour. With the destruction of the Lib Dems, and the reform of a warped electoral system to come, I would bet my money on a Dave majority on the next Parliament. That would be a very good election to win, much better than 2010. The economy will almost certainly recover in that Parliament, and the Tories would have the mandate and opportunity to realign our relationship with Europe (which by then will make them very popular).

The election of David Miliband would have changed all of this. Bad own goal for the left. I almost cannot believe thay were so stupid as to do it.
Of course I hope you are wrong but I would be a fool to deny your case is a strong one. Strengthened by the fact that several authoritative sources- Economist, BCC and others, detect an ending of the recession. But Ed has been underestimated in the past, including by me, so I'm just hoping his calmness under fire and fertile intellect will eventually win through over the flashy Blair-style attributes of Cameron.
Thanks for your comment
Well, Ed's speech indicated that maybe he is indeed 'getting there'. Even The Times editorial praised his 'One nation' address yesterday. A reason to be at least mildly cheerful for Labour supporters....
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